While skin tags can appear just about anywhere, they're especially common in parts of your body that rub against clothing or skin. Skin tags are most common on the neck, armpits, groin, and eyelids. They also may appear on the chest and back and in skin creases. Women are likely to develop skin tags under the breasts, where the underwire of a bra may rub against the skin.
While it is true that skin tags often show up in the armpit or neck creases, the skin-on-skin friction is not what’s to blame. Rather, it’s the creases and skin folds that produce a friendly environment for a virus that may cause some skin tags. According to Ben Johnson, MD, founder of holistic beauty brand Osmosis Skincare, “Viruses are much more commonly spread through contact than people realize, but they don’t find the skin an easy place to survive. Creases improve their chances, and on rare occasions, one makes it into the follicle and infects local skin DNA to create skin tags.”
According to Live Science, a skin tag is basically just a skin growth that can be smooth or irregular. It may attach to the skin by a stalk. But Katy Burris, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University and board-certified dermatologist practicing at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, puts it simply: “A skin tag is a soft growth of normal skin that appears like a small tag. They tend to appear in areas of high friction, where skin may rub clothing or other skin.”
While the majority of skin tags are simply destroyed, sometimes tissue is sent for microscopic exam by a health care specialist known as a pathologist, who will determine the exact diagnosis and determine whether an abnormality such as skin cancer is present. Irregular skin growths that are larger, bleed, or have an unusual presentation may require pathology examination to make sure there are no irregular cells or skin cancers.
Your skin is the heaviest organ in the body and takes up about 16 percent of your total weight.1 It serves many purposes, such as protecting your internal organs from microbes and environmental heat, as well as regulating body temperature.2 But due to its size and breadth, there's a chance that growths can unexpectedly form. One common example found among adults is skin tags.
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Some essential oils are quite useful in treating skin issues, including skin tags. Well known for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, tea tree oil is particularly beneficial for skin issues including skin tags. Tea tree oil comes from the Southeast Australian coast. The oil has many health and beauty benefits including skin benefits, treating fungal infections, and clearing coughs and congestion. (4)
Like moles, removal of skin tags poses a threat of exacerbation of the tumorous site. Though rare, it is possible to develop a malignant tumor by removal. If removal is desired or warranted, it can be achieved using a home treatment kit eg Skin Tag Zap™, dermatologist, general practitioner or similarly trained professional who may use cauterisation, cryosurgery, excision, laser, or surgical ligation to remove the acrochorda.
Doctors do not recommend that you snip off you skin tag yourself. "I see patients come into my office and you know they’re in pain because they've tried to clip the skin tags off themselves," says Geraghty. "Maybe part of it was left behind so it’s just having a hard time healing, or they’ve tried to do that trick where they try to tie dental floss or thread around it to strangulate the skin tag and end up killing part of the tissue but not the other, which is still hanging on. These patients will end up with a sore, red, inflamed, tender bump."
While the presence of skin tags can be unsightly and annoying there really aren’t that many reasons to remove them. If they are in locations where they get stuck in clothing or zippers you may want to have them taken off to avoid pain and bleeding. You may also want to have skin tags near the eyes removed. “Some skin tags can become very large and cause problems with vision,” said Sorensen.
Susan Besser, MD, a family medicine specialist with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, says that if skin tags “get large, change color, or become infected or ulcerated, you need to see your doctor. In those cases, it may not be a simple skin tag and further evaluation is needed.” By and large, Todd Minars, MD, of MINARS Dermatology in Hollywood, Florida, states, “Skin tags are harmless. If they do not bother you, then there is no need to treat them.”
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Dr Yip notes that while it’s uncommon to experience an infected skin tag, it’s likely they may become red, inflamed and itchy if they're constantly rubbing against clothing and jewellery. “If there is infection, it is usually red, swollen and painful and may have pus discharge and a malodour [an unpleasant odour].” If this occurs, apply an antiseptic cream to mild irritations or see a dermatologist if the pain is more severe.
Cauterization. Burning off a skin tag should never be attempted at home. This is a procedure that must be conducted by an experienced medical professional. Electrocauterization requires a special tool that is heated and then carefully applied to the skin tag; the skin tag may not come off immediately. It may fall off in the hours or days following the procedure.
Tie it off. You can use fishing line, dental floss, or a thin cotton string in this method. Tie the string around the base of your skin tag. Tighten the tie until it is firm, but not painful. Snip off the excess and leave the string in place. Your skin tag should fall off due to lack of circulation. This is a version of what doctors can perform in their office using sterile tools.
There are a few at-home skin tag removal kit options you can pick up from pharmacies - some products are designed to freeze small skin tags, others involve wrapping small rubber bands around the skin tag to cut off the blood supply, and we’ve also seen ones where you apply a solution to the tag and cover it in a bandaid to hinder the supply of oxygen.
"If the skin tags are a little bigger or they have more of a thicker stalk at the bottom, then I like to just do a miniature injection of lidocaine to numb the skin and just snip them right off with some very sharp sterile scissors. It only takes a second to do," says Geraghty. "Even with that method I usually do a little bit of cautery after to burn the base because these skin tags have their own blood vessel supply. Burning the base also puts a little scab on it."
But that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore skin tags. David Lorschter, MD, founder of Curology and a board-certified dermatologist in San Diego, notes there are exceptions. He says people with a genetic disorder called basal cell nevus system (BCNS) usually exhibit spots of basal cell skin cancer that look like — you guessed it — skin tags. Therefore, people with BCNS should have their skin tags biopsied and screened for cancer on a regular basis.